Government-run hospitals in Delhi lack proper facilities to treat patients, especially new born and children.
The hospitals turn away several patients everyday due to unavailability of beds or equipment and even those who get admitted are at risk of hospital-acquired
infections and poor sanitation in the crowded wards.
The pediatric emergency unit at Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, Delhi, which recently saw the death of a day year old baby, was swarming with people. Families were eating lunch on patients' beds; there was no clean water to drink for the attendants and they stayed in unhygienic conditions for their children.
"When the child who died was brought to the hospital, there was no bed available in the newborn ICU (NICU). We could not admit it in the general ward because it does not have ventilator facility or warmers, which are needed to regulate temperature. Newborns can die of
hypothermia in an air-conditioned room," a doctor at RML said.
"This child's case was highlighted because he was taken to various
hospitals in a CATS ambulance. Many poor parents bring their newborns in an autorickshaw or a private vehicle. No one knows how many such children who are refused admission survive," said Dr Ajay Gambhir, President of National Neonatology Forum. He said most private nursing homes that deliver babies don't have facilities or medical expertise to take care of ill children.
At Kalawati Saran Hospital, one of Asia's biggest health facilities for
children, doctors said that when infections were more common, especially during monsoon, two patients share a bed and in other cases, there are 5 to 6 patients for every four beds.
"The pediatric emergency and ICU at our hospital has more than 20 beds.
But there are less than five ventilators. MRI and echo cardiogram tests are not available. Those who can pay are asked to get these tests done outside, the others are sent to G B Pant and RML hospitals," said a senior doctor.
The hospital also faces acute shortage of nurses. The rule is to have two
nurses for each newborn but at Kalawati and most other public hospitals there's just one for 10 patients.
Lok Nayak Hospital has 50 NICU beds, half of which are for in-house patients.
Dr Sidharth Ramji, director and professor of the hospital's neonatology unit,
said, "We need to upgrade existing infrastructure in public hospitals and
also utilize the facilities under private sector. Some NICU beds in private hospitals can be reserved under the Economically Weaker Section category."